The following is an op-ed piece from Delegates Kathy Szeliga and Ryan Nawrocki.
Your neighborhood middle school may be changing. Baltimore County Public Schools are in the process of redistricting middle school students. As you know, this doesn’t just impact the kids in your neighborhood, this also impacts your property values. You probably chose your neighborhood in part or whole because of the schools.
If you live in the Central or Northeast area of Baltimore County, this may impact you.
Baltimore County is dealing with overcrowding and planning for the grand opening of the new Northeast middle school for the 2024-2025 school year located at Nottingham Park in Rosedale. Currently, three schools are labeled as overcrowded: Perry Hall Middle School, Golden Ring Middle School (to be closed when the new school opens), and Middle River Middle School. These schools are all located in the Northeast section; however, the boundary study will affect both Northeast and Central area students. There are two Central middle schools that are projected to become overcrowded in future years – Ridgely Middle School and Dumbarton Middle School.
In addition to the new school being built, Pine Grove Middle School is being expanded and renovated with an expected completion of December 2024. All boundary changes will take effect for the 2024-2025 school year. Seventh and eighth graders (and sixth graders with siblings in seventh or eighth grade) may stay in their original school under special permission as a transfer the first year the boundaries are in effect. However, no transportation will be provided.
A public comment form was made available up until March 8th. The public is invited to two information meetings on March 8th and 9th from 7-8 p.m., after which time a survey will be released. This will allow the public to vote on the boundary maps selected by the boundary study committee. There will be another committee meeting on March 29th to review the survey results at which time they will push forward a recommendation to the Baltimore County School Board. Finally, the Board will vote on the recommendation in June.
Parents have been reaching out to our office to express their concerns about the potential redistricting impact. Examples of these proposed changes are:
- Carroll Manor Elementary School – some to Pine Grove MS instead of Cockeysville MS
- Hampton Elementary School – some to Loch Raven Technical Academy instead of Ridgely Middle School
- Kingsville Elementary School – some to Pine Grove MS instead of Perry Hall Middle School
- Vincent Farm Elementary School – some to Middle River Middle School and the new school being built instead of Perry Hall Middle School
In each of these examples, the redistricted middle school has lower test scores in reading and math than the previously zoned middle school. Parents are telling us about their fears for their children as well as the potential impact on their property values. There are eight elementary schools in our district that will be affected by these changes.
We contacted Board Chair Lichter after hearing from constituents frustrated by impending changes. Chair Lichter shared these concerns with the Superintendent as well as members of his staff. We have not received a response to date regarding these concerns raised on February 15th and followed-up with another letter on February 28th. We also questioned Superintendent Williams during a recent Baltimore County House Delegation meeting to express our strong concerns with this process. Since that time, more parents have reached out to us sharing their efforts to create a grassroots campaign to question the results of the boundary study and ask for our involvement. Also, constituents have raised serious concerns around the facilitation of the last boundary committee meeting and the elimination of various boundary options from consideration.
This week, we signed a bi-partisan letter addressed to the Superintendent and the School Board expressing our strong opposition to map option 6(C). This proposal would divide the communities of Perry Hall and Kingsville in half along Belair Road and does not respect the historical borders of those neighborhoods. This is an example of the impact of these proposed boundary changes that do not honor historical neighborhoods or aim for compactness.
Another concerning part of this controversy is that the Superintendent’s Rules detail in Policy 1280 III B that the members of any boundary committee must include “two parents from each of the affected schools who are recommended by the school principal”. The 46 elementary schools potentially affected by the boundary changes did not have representation on the committee.
Unfortunately, our work in Annapolis prohibits us from attending the meetings. However, we are sending a representative to the public meeting this week. We strongly encourage you to make your voice heard as well!